Something I noticed while on the elliptical machine at the gym (while trying to notice anything but my heart and respiration rate): There are a lot of ads for veterinary drugs on TV!
My husband and I are some of those weirdoes who only stream movies; we don’t watch broadcast TV, so I haven’t noticed this before, but holy smokes! It seems like there are as many ads for dog drugs as there are ads for drugs for humans – but with one important distinction: The ads for the veterinary medications don’t seem to have to include the fast-talking, small-print “side effects” additions about all the potential adverse effects that the drugs might cause. Why is that? I went looking for more information on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) website, and here’s what I found:
It turns out that the drug companies are required to disclose risk information in their promotional materials – at least, the promotional materials that are presented to veterinarians. Advertising materials that are directed to pet owners – known as direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements – are judged by a slightly different standard.
The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) oversees the promotion and advertising of approved prescription drug products under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and related regulations. Animal drug companies must ensure their prescription drug information provided to veterinarians and consumers is truthful, balanced, and not misleading. But marketing materials that are advertised in veterinary trade publications or distributed directly to veterinarians (or their hospitals) must be balanced with both benefit and risk information. And the product inserts must contain warnings, precautions, and contraindications for the product’s use.
In contrast, the main criterion for DTC advertisements for prescription drugs is that the promotional message is truthful and does not mislead consumers into thinking the drug is safer or more effective than has been demonstrated. According to the FDA CVM website: “DTC advertisements are designed to prompt consumers to request more information from their veterinarians about the drug. These advertisements can provide helpful information to consumers, increase awareness of certain conditions or diseases, and may even influence a consumer to seek veterinary help for their animal; however, the content of the advertisement must be truthful, balanced, clearly communicated, and not misleading.”
Interestingly, ads for over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are not regulated by the FDA, but by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)! The rules for OTC drugs are far less detailed. Essentially, the only real rules are that claims in advertisements must be truthful, cannot be deceptive or unfair, and must be evidence-based.
Also interesting: I couldn’t find any information about the regulations for advertising topical pesticides for dogs (such as “spot on” flea and tick pesticides). The products themselves are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, but I couldn’t find advertising regulations anywhere. If I had to guess, I would bet that the ads for these products are governed by the FTC, too.
Personally, I’d love to see the ads for all veterinary products, whether prescription or OTC, pesticide or medication, to have to list the potential side effects, just like the human drug ads. I think this would demystify the products, and help make it clear that anything you give to or put on your dog might have a deleterious effect.
What do you think?